A suc­cess­ful ‘lean me­dia’

The Smart Manager - - Myth Buster -

project does not have to be na­tional or in­ter­na­tional in scope. It just has to truly lead to me­dia that res­onates with au­di­ences.

wrong. Even the most hard-nosed traf­fic guru or growth hacker knows that the best way to get great num­bers is by hav­ing great me­dia to work with.

Here is the other thing with just look­ing at the num­bers to make cre­ative de­ci­sions: most of the data will point you to what worked in the past. And, as any ex­pe­ri­enced me­dia per­son will know, what is hot this year may very well be a flash in the pan or a one-hit won­der, as the cre­ator of Gang­nam Style can at­test!

Lots of peo­ple trot out ex­am­ples of big me­dia com­pa­nies that have suc­ceeded on a met­rics-driven strat­egy. How­ever, com­pa­nies like Zynga (creators of Far­mville and Zynga Poker) have been fail­ing in re­cent years, as its string of copy­cat games and ac­qui­si­tions fail to gen­er­ate much in­ter­est. Fa­mously, it uses A/B test­ing to make cre­ative de­ci­sions, and does not give its cre­ative peo­ple much room to ex­per­i­ment or de­velop their own vi­sions. What worked in the past will de­ter­mine what Zynga re­leases in the fu­ture. It has laid off thou­sands of peo­ple in the past five years, and rev­enue has been flat.

And, while data-driven com­pa­nies like Ama­zon and Net­flix are do­ing very well with new video and film con­tent, they do not only work by the num­bers— they have some of the most tal­ented cre­ative peo­ple in Hollywood com­ing up with ideas and de­vel­op­ing them in con­cert with both quan­ti­ta­tive data and qual­i­ta­tive feed­back. With the huge bud­gets and de­vel­op­ment time­lines at their dis­posal, Net­flix and Ama­zon are not tak­ing a lean ap­proach, but what they are do­ing de­pends on a big cre­ative vi­sion, not just a num­bers-based pop­u­lar­ity con­cept.

04 lean me­dia has only been prac­ticed in re­cent years

‘Lean me­dia’ tech­niques have been used by suc­cess­ful me­dia creators for decades, even though the ter­mi­nol­ogy was only de­vel­oped in the last five years. It is not a new fad.

The ear­li­est ex­am­ple that I talk about in my book is Led Zep­pelin, a Bri­tish hard rock band that used au­di­ence feed­back and a fast-mov­ing cre­ative process to de­velop its first two al­bums in 1968 and 1969. Pro­duc­ers of The Simp­sons also used a low-cost, small-team ap­proach and early au­di­ence feed­back to val­i­date the con­cept of a primetime TV car­toon in the late 1980s. It be­came a global hit.

A more re­cent ex­am­ple is Minecraft, a suc­cess­ful video game that was pur­chased by Mi­crosoft for more than $2 bil­lion sev­eral years ago. Minecraft was de­vel­oped by a Swedish game pro­gram­mer work­ing part time and us­ing on­line au­di­ence feed­back and live test­ing to im­prove the playa­bil­ity, de­sign, and other el­e­ments.

05 lean me­dia is only for big brands or large me­dia com­pa­nies

A suc­cess­ful ‘lean me­dia’ project does not have to be na­tional or in­ter­na­tional in scope. It just has to truly lead to me­dia that res­onates with au­di­ences.

There are many other ex­am­ples of small-scale projects and lo­cal me­dia cre­ation. ‘Lean me­dia’ can be used for de­sign­ing a book cover or the con­tent of a news ar­ti­cle, writ­ing a new song, or cre­at­ing a niche web­site for peo­ple in­ter­ested in a cer­tain topic.

In fact, one of the great things about small-scale me­dia projects that are de­vel­oped with smaller teams and smaller bud­gets, is they can it­er­ate more quickly based on au­di­ence feed­back. How­ever, many small teams or solo creators (such as an au­thor) may strug­gle with re­cruit­ing test au­di­ences. I have some spe­cific tips for ad­dress­ing that is­sue in the book ( Lean Me­dia), such as us­ing ‘sur­ro­gate au­di­ences’, which are au­di­ences who like the same things that you think your au­di­ence will like. ■

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